Chicago Metro History Fair
Journals of Father Jacques MarquetteIn 1673, guided by Native Americans in the area, Father Jacques Marquette, French-born missionary of the Jesuit order, and Louis Jolliet, Canadian explorer and mapmaker, were the first Europeans to view the land on which the City of Chicago was to stand.
Additional Biographical References:
- Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet, PBS, “American Experience: Chicago, City of the Century”
Passage from Marquette’s Journal:
Dec. 4 . We started well to reach Portage River, which was frozen half a foot thick. There was more snow there than anywhere else, and also more tracks of animals and turkeys. The navigation of the lake from one portage to the other is quite is fine, there being no traverse to make, and landing being quite feasible all along, providing you do not obstinately persist in traveling in the breakers and high winds. The land along the shore is good for nothing, except on the prairies. You meet eight or ten pretty fine rivers. Deer hunting is pretty good as you get away from the Pottawatomies.
Dec. 12. As they began to draw to get to the portage, the Illinois having left, the Pottawatomies arrived with much diffculty. We could not say mass on the Feast of the Conception on account of the bad weather and the cold. During our stay at the mouth of the river, Pierre and Jacques killed three buffalo and four deer, one of which ran quite a distance with his heart cut in two. They contented themselves with killing three or four turkeys of the many which were around our cabin, because they were almost dying of hunger. Jacques brought in a partridge that he had killed, every way resembling those of France, except that it had like two little wings of three or four feathers, a finger long, near the head, with which they cover the two sides of the neck, where there are no feathers.
Dec. 14. Being cabined near the portage, two leagues up the river, we resolved to winter there, on my inability to go farther, being too much embarrassed, and my malady not permitting me to stand much fatigue. Several Illinois passed yesterday, going to carry their furs to Nawaskingwe. We gave them a buffalo and a deer that Jacques had killed the day before. I think I never saw Indians more greedy for French tobacco than these. They came and threw beaver skins at our feet to get a small piece; but we returned them, giving them some pipes, because we had not yet concluded whether we should go on.
Dec. 15. Chachagwession and the other Illinois left us to go and find their people, and give them the merchandise which they had brought in order to get their furs, in which they act like traders and hardly give more than the French. I instructed them, before their departure deferring the holding of a council til spring, when I should be at their village. They gave us for a fathom of tobacco three fine buffalo-robes, which have done us good service this winter. Being thus relieved, we said the mass of the Conception. Since the 14th, my disease has turned into a dysentery.
Dec. 30. Jacques arrived from the Illinois village, which was only six leagues from here, where they are starving. The cold and snow prevent their hunting. Some having informed la Toupine and the surgeon that we were here, and unable to leave their cabin, had they so alarmed the Indians (believing that we would starve remaining here) that Jacques had great trouble in preventing fifteen young men from coming to carry all our affairs.
Jan. 16, 1675. As soon as the two Frenchmen knew that my illness prevented my going to them, the surgeon came here with an Indian to bring us some whortleberries and bread; they are only eighteen leagues from here, in a beautiful hunting-ground for buffalo and deer, and turkeys, which are excellent there. They had, too, laid up provisions while awaiting us, and had given the Indians to understand that the cabin belonged to the black gown. And I may say that they said and did all that could be expected of them. The surgeon having stopped to attend to his duties, I sent Jacques with him to tell the Illinois, who were near there, that my illness prevented my going to see them, and that, if it continued, I should scarcely be able to go there in the spring.
Jan. 24. Jacques returned with a bag of corn and other refreshments that the French had given him for me; he also brought the tongues and meat of two buffalo that he and an Indian had killed near by; but all the animals show the badness of the season.
Jan. 26. Three Illinois brought us from the head men two bags of corn, some dried meat, squashes, and twelve beavers; 1st, to make me a mat; 2d, to ask me for powder; 3d, to prevent our being hungry; 4th, to have some few goods. I answered them: firstly, that I had to come to instruct them, by speaking to them of the prayer, &c.; secondly, that I would not give them powder, as we were endeavoring to diffuse peace on all sides, and I did not wish them to begin a war with the Miamies; thirdly, that we were in no fear of starving; fourthly, that I would encourage the French to carry them goods, and that they must satisfy those among them for the wampum taken from them as soon as the surgeon started to come here. As they had come twenty leagues, to pay them for their trouble and what they had brought me, I gave them an axe, two knives, three clasp knives, ten fathoms of wampum, and two double mirrors; telling them that I should endeavor to go to the village, merely for a few days, if my illness continued. They told me to take courage, to stay and die in their country, and said that they had been told that I would remain long with them.
Feb. 9. Since we addressed ourselves to the Blessed Virgin Immaculate, to whom we began a nevena by a mass, at which Pierre and Jacques, who do all they can to relieve me, received, to ask my recovery of the Almighty, my dysentery has ceased; there is only a weakness of the stomach left. I begin to feel much better, and to recover my strength. None of the Illinois who had ranged themselves near us have been cabined for a month; some took the road to the Pottwatomies, and some are still on the lake waiting for the navigation to open. They carry letters to our Fathers at St. Francis.
Feb. 20. We had time to observe the tide which comes from the lake rising and falling, although there appears no shelter on the lake. We saw the ice go against the wind. These tides made the water good or bad, because what comes from above flows from the prairies and smalls streams. The deer, which are plentiful on the lake shore, are so lean that we had to leave some that we killed.
March 23. We killed several partridges; only the male has the little wings at the neck, the female not having any. These partridges are pretty good, but do not come up to the French.
March 30. The north wind having prevented the thaw till the 25th of March, it began with a southerly wind. The next day game began to appear; we killed thirty wild pigeons, which I found better than those below, but smaller, both young and old. On the 28th, the ice broke and choked above us. On the 29th, the water was so high that we had barely time to uncabin in haste, put our things on trees, and try to find a place to sleep on some hillock, the water gaining on us all night; but having frozen a little, and having fallen, as we were near our luggage, the dyke burst and the ice went down; and as the waters are again ascending already, we are going to embark to continue our route.
March 31. Having started yesterday, we made three leagues on the river, going up without finding any portage. We dragged for half an arpent. Besides this outlet the river has another, by which we must descend. Only the very highest grounds escape inundation. That where we are has increased more than twelve feet. Here we began our portage more than eighteen months ago. Geese and duck pass constantly. We contented ourselves with seven. The ice still brought down detains us here, as we do not know in what state the river is lower down.
Source: Harlbut, Henry H. Chicago Antiquities: Comprising Original Items and Relations, Letters, Extracts, and Notes, Pertaining to Early Chicago. Chicago: The author, 1881. F548.4.H9
Additional Passages from the Journal
- The Journal of Père Jacques Marquette, Professor Jim Matthews, Illinois Wesleyan Univesity